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bobster1985

War intrudes on the World's Fair

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My father-in-law's has often told the story of standing in front of the Polish Pavilion as a little boy on September 1st, 1939 when the announcement was made that the invasion was underway. Black bunting was hung and the Polish and American National Anthems were sung. He vividly remembers that there was not a dry eye in the crowd.

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That is a powerful link to history. What a dark day that must have been and the begining of a very long struggle.

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My mother was there the night Italy closed and told me pretty much the same story. She said people were crying when the pavilion went dark.

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Bill, did she ever talk about how she and others felt about why the Italian building closed? It was not just because of the expanding War. I mean, Italy was an ally of the Third Reich. To Italian Americans that must have been a terribly painful situation and in 1940, Italian Americans comprised about one third of the US popuation. My mother was second generation Austrian American (with many family members still in Austria) and she often told me her family went out of their way to tell people they were not German. It was a fine line though. Although the Anschluss was a German conquest, many Austrians welcomed them. When I think about it, it reminds me of how dark a time it must have been because, deep down, Americans had to know they would not be able to steer clear of the storm.

Jim

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Yes, mom has said that although she was still relatively young at the time, she knew that the world was about to change. She also said that seeing how all of the adults were reacting made her realize this was bigger than anything that she had seen before. Italy was her favorite pavilion so to see it close due to a war, and knowing people were about to die, was a very powerful event for her.

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The USSR pavilion was one of the most popular in the first season, but after they invaded Poland and then Finland they decided not to re-open for the 1940 season. The building was bulldozed and the empty space was called American Commons that second year of the fair.

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The Russians marched in and took over the Baltic countries too, as part of the deal Molotov made with Ribbentrop (the existence of the signed deal didn't even become public until after the war- I saw the document last year when I was in Europe).

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There was a good deal of pressure on the Soviets to close their pavilion after the 1939 Fair ended . The NY Times ran an editorial in December of 1939 (I think that was the month) stating that the Soviets were no longer welcome in NY for a second edition of the Fair. And you are correct, bobster. The pavilion was carefully demolished and shipped, block by block, back to the USSR.

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The pavilion was carefully demolished and shipped, block by block, back to the USSR.

Except the statue of Joe Stalin seemed to be missing. Probably stolen for the metal scrap value before it left the docks of New York. It was never seen again.

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I just realized that in reference to the lead post in this thread, the Soviets also had a part in the destruction of Poland in September of 1939. This was all very easy because of the Non-Aggression Pact signed with Germany in August of 1939.

Randy, are you making reference to a statue of Stalin in or near the pavilion? The statue on the top was representative of a Soviet worker. What statue went missing?

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For what I understand, people called the statue on top 'Joe', and it was the one that ended up missing. Joe the Worker, not Stalin. But there are other folks here who are more knowledgeable about the '39-40 Fair and can tell the story better than I can.

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Yeah, it was called "Joe the Worker." I sort of thought that is what you meant but wondered if there was another statue--one of Stalin himself.

A long time ago we had a thread about the Soviet Pavilion and I vaguely remember the idea of the missing statue. It is perhaps the only Soviet pavilion that did not find a new life back home, as I recall. When, where or why the statue (which was actually assembled in sections) went missing, I do not know.

When I wrote my master's thesis (one hundred years ago) I found many news articles and editorials (newspaper and magazine) about the Soviet pavilion and the inappropriate presence of the USSR at the second edition of the Fair in light of their aggression in the Baltic republics and in Poland. Public opinion was very much against them and there really was no option. They had to leave.

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PS: Two Soviet pavilions (1937 and 1967) are now located at the All Union Agricultral Exhibition Centre in Moscow. It was originally designed for an exposition involving all of the Soviet Republics in 1939. I believe it is used for continuing exhibitions today and the 1967 Soviet pavilion from Expo is called "Montreal" by locals.

It's just a guess but the 1939 pavilion probably got lost in the War effort.

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You might be right Jim. Since the big statue was made of stainless steel, it might have been awfully tempting- not just to American dockworkers, but to the Russians themselves- to scrap it and use the metal for the war effort. I imagine what happened is buried in some archive in Moscow.

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Speaking of Soviet pavilions, does anybody know what happened to the USSR Pavilion from Expo '70? Having seen it in person, it had a very temporary feel about it so my guess is it ended up in a Japanese junkyard. If anyone has any information to the contrary, I'd like to know.

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I am not familiar with that pavilion and will have to look for a photograph. Did the Soviets have a building at the Spokane fair in 1974? Did that cease to exist after that fair closed as well?

I can see why the wanted to keep their Montreal pavilion. While it is not what I would call innovative architecture, especially for that exposition, it was monumental and memorable and it celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution.

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The USSR had pavilions at Vancouver in 1986 and I believe at Spokane in 1974. These were modules built by fair organizers and leased to the respective governments so essentially there would have been nothing to salvage.

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On May 12 at 8 PM EST, Turner Classic Movies ran the 1945 film, "Roughly Speaking," with Rosalind Russell and Jack Carson. I had never seen it. About two thirds of the way into the film, Jack Carson (playing Rosalind Russell's husand) accepts a job as a landscaper at the New York World's Fair.

The next few scenes take place at their new home somewhere in Queens but very near the Fair--so close, in fact, that they operate a small parking lot for Fair visitors and charge 35 cents per car until 2 AM. Whenever a car is parked, Rosalind Russell tells the people to be certain to look at the flowers because her husband planted every one of them.

There is a scene showing the Trylon and Perisphere. A bit later, as their entire family gathers for the mother's birthday, they hear a trumpet playing in the distance. Someone informs everyone at the gathered table that the Polish pavilion is closing. The next shot is of the tower of the Polish pavilion as the lights go out. Jack Carson's line: "Well, so much for the world of tomorrow."

On its own it is a good film. They are two wonderful actors and the story line is very good. The world's fair references are an amazing surprise. and the message (the start of WW2 in Europe) ties right into this thread.

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Hi Jim,

do you know what happened the smaller 1939 USSR building off to the side of the Court of Peace, where the Soviet planes were displayed? Arctic planes? I don't recall, but have some 8x10's laying around here. I never see mention of this little building in the context of this thread. I imagine it was simply re-purposed?

Eric

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